Friday Football Clash matches pair of super 6-1 teams
By Jim Turner

Posted on October 14, 2021 9:57 PM


Friday’s Clash of the Cats football game at Russellvillle’s historic Rhea Stadium may be the most eagerly anticipated of the 34 games matching the Panthers and their neighbors two miles way, the Logan County Cougars.

And that’s justified.

This time when the crosstown friendly rivals Clash, the combatants represent two of the best football teams in Southcentral/Western Kentucky. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more quality matchup anywhere.

Both teams have a 6-1 record. Based on the RPI system the Kentucky High School Athletic Association is now employing, Coach Mikie Benton’s Panthers are not only the second-ranked team in the state in Class 1A, but they have the fifth highest RPI in the state from among approximately 180 teams. Only Lexington Christian, Beechwood and Mayfield in Class 2A and Pikeville in 1A have higher RPIs.

That means Russellville has a higher RPI that traditional powerhouses St. Xavier, Male and Trinity of Louisville, Fort Thomas Highlands, Danville, Boyle County, Bowling Green, South Warren, Owensboro and McCracken County.

Logan is ranked number four in Class 4A and half of the Cougar wins have come over traditional powers Hopkinsville, Christian County, and Franklin-Simpson.

Russellville, which has won three state championships and reached three other state championship games, has struggled somewhat the last few years, including four straight losses to the Cougars after winning 21 of the first 29 Clashes.

Why are the Panthers so good this year? There are numerous reasons, including:

1)    Benton, a former Panther great who was a starter in the defensive backfield of the Kentucky Wildcats, has been painstakingly rebuilding the program.

2)    The Panthers’ have a nice balance of talented backs and big, strong lineman. Many years, Russellville has been blessed with quick scatbacks who have been trying to run behind undersized lines. That’s not the case this year.

3)    For the first time since maybe the post-war years in the late 1940s, the Panthers have a number of fifth-year seniors.

That extra year is the result of the KHSAA, the state school board and the Kentucky General Assembly allowing students to repeat the 2020-21 school year if they and their parents felt that another year in high school would help them after being out of the classroom much of that year because of the COVID pandemic.

Under the oversight of Coach Benton, Athletic Director Ryan Davenport and then-Principal Ben Bruni, seven of the eight seniors on the 2020 team chose to return. They are All-Stater Chevis Elliott, Xavier Coleman, Zach Dowlen, Jackson Hampton, Josh McMurry, Jaquis Todd and Josh Todd. The only non-returnee was the talented Josh Allen, who had used his redshirt year before reaching high school.

Adding to the experience, talent and physical maturity are two transfers from Logan County. They are Braxton Baptiste, who was the starting quarterback for the Cougars the first two games last year before being injured and missing the rest of the season, and receiver/defensive back Anthony ‘Rooster’ Woodard, a marvelously talented athlete in the physical uniqueness of RHS Hall-of-Famers Forrest Killebrew and Teco Dickerson.

Baptiste’s and Woodard’s families transferred them to RHS in the spring last year so they would be returning RHS students, not LCHS

Baptiste had an exceptional game in leading Coach Todd Adler’s Cougars to a 29-7 win n last year’s Clash. He rushed 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown against his current team. He completed 10 of 25 passes for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. He also made 4 tackles, 3 of them solos, 1 for a loss.

Woodard and Baptiste played middle school sports at Russellville before playing for Logan County High School. In fact, Rooster was a Panther as a freshman.

Added to Russellville’s resurgence are five other seniors who were juniors last year. Ben Allen, Nick Bolllenbecker, Dustin Brown, Jovari Gamble and Lennon Ries are key contributors to the Panthers’ success. Quarterback Ries sat out last year’s Clash with an injury.

Russellville’a 14 seniors comprise half of the 28 Panthers who have gotten on the field in the first seven games.

Logan’s story of success is opposite of the Panthers. None of last year’s seniors on the team opted for a fifth year. The Cougars have only five seniors this year, and the most experienced of them, linebacker Cade Johnson, suffered an injury that will keep him sidelined during the Clash.

The other four seniors—Wyatt Blake, Jesse Buchanan, Keaton Slaughter and John Ross Terry—all play crucial roles for the team. Blake, in fact, is everywhere on the field on both offense and defense.

For the second straight year, the Cougars are playing without their expected starting quarterback. Last year it was Baptiste. This year Corbin Rayno was the man, but he underwent the first of two shoulder surgeries Thursday.

And for the second straight year, sophomore Davin Yates has answered the call. He has been steady and effective in the quarterback role all season—passing some, handing off to Rayno’s first cousin Ryan Corbin or to Blake, or keeping the ball on the ground himself.

Depth is a key for the Cougars. Coach Todd Adler has used 14 different running back, and five of them—Rayno, Balake, Yates, Buchanan and freshman JunVontre Dillard have an gained at least 88 yards. Eight players have caught passes, led by B;ake, Zane Batten, Jack Delaney and Dillard.

Logan is decidedly deeper than Russellville. Fifty-two Cougars have taken the field, almost double their Panther counterparts total.

Both teams have excellent kickers. Cougar junior Mattia Glubilato has been successful on 27 of 29 extra point attempts and 3 of 7 field goals. Almost unbelievably, Panther senior Dustin Brown has exactly the same numbers.

Coach Todd Adler and his staff didn’t return a lot of experience this year, but they did return the shared belief by the coaches, the players and the fans that the Cougars can play with anyone. Adler, who is a former star player on the team he coaches like Benton, is already the winningest coach in the 38-year history of Logan County football.

Russellville has played football for 87 seasons, 82 of them at Rhea Stadium.

Here’s a look at the impressive team statistics for both teams.

Won-Lost Records

LCHS             6-1

RHS                6-1


RHS                .74023                      

LCHS               .59670

Opponents’ Average RPI

RHS                .51437

LCHS               .46727

Team Offense

RHS    Rushing Yards 1,526          Passing Yards  847Total Offense  2,373           

LCHS   Rushing Yards 1,543          Passing Yards  794Total Offense  2,337

Scoring Average

RHS                34.9 points per game

LCHS               32.9 points per game

Team Defense

RHS    Rushing Yards Allowed  812        Passing Yards Allowed 226            Total Defense          1,038 yards

LCHS   Rushing Yards Allowed 1,072 Passing Yards Allowed 796  Total Defense  1,869 yards

Points Allowed Average

RHS                11.9 points per game

LCHS              14.6 points per game

Opponents’ Average Won-Lost Record

LCHS               3.3 won-3.9 lost

RHS                3.1 won-3.9 lost

Classifications of Opponents

LCHS               2 in 5A, 5 in 4A

RHS                1 in 6A, 2 in 4A, 1 in 3A, 2 in 2A, 1 in 1A

Players Seeing Action

LCHS               53

RHS                28                  

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. The game will be carried live on WRUS (104.9 FM, 610 AM) Friday and will also be aired again Saturday, beginning at 1:05 p.m.





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